Tokyo shares at eight-year top, Greek talks loom
Japanese shares touched an eight-year high on Monday following a record close on Wall Street, with investors cautiously optimistic the European Union would make progress this week on a debt deal with Greece.
Oil prices faded after an early spurt, while the major currencies stayed locked in recent tight ranges and European bourses were expected to start with only minor moves.
Data from Japan showed the economy emerged from recession in the final quarter of last year, though growth of 0.6 percent was short of market forecasts.
Investors still seemed encouraged and the Nikkei .N225 firmed 0.5 percent to reach its highest since 2007.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS recouped a small initial loss to inch ahead 0.1 percent to 483.90. The index boasted its highest close since late October on Friday but is bumping up against a major band of chart resistance in the 484 to 486 area.
Australia’s main index .AXJO nudged up 0.2 percent, as did shares in Shanghai .SSEC. Holidays will be a feature this week with the United States off on Monday and much of Asia celebrating the Lunar New Year. China’s markets are off from Feb. 18 right through to the 24th.
The Eurogroup of finance ministers meets in Brussels later Monday to try to find common ground with Greece’s new government, in talks that could drag on for some time.
Greece said on Sunday it was confident of reaching agreement in negotiations with its eurozone partners, but reiterated it would not accept harsh austerity strings in any debt pact.
Markets have generally assumed a compromise would eventually be found, given the alternative might be a disastrous Greek exit from the euro.
The S&P 500 ended at a record high on Friday, as energy shares gained with oil prices, while the Nasdaq hit a 15-year peak helped by technology stocks.
The Dow .DJI gained 0.26 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX added 0.41 percent and theNasdaq .IXIC 0.75 percent. The FTSEuroFirst index of 300 leading shares .FTEU3 closed up 0.64 percent, helped by upbeat growth data from Germany.
Without a clear outcome on Greece, there is little conviction to buy or sell the euro. As a result, the common currency has been drifting in a slim $1.1262-1.1534 range in the last few weeks. It was last at $1.1419 EUR=.
Against the yen, the euro was steady at 135.20 EURJPY=R, off a three-week peak of 136.70 reached last Thursday. The dollar slipped to 118.45 yen JPY=, recoiling from a one-month high of 120.48 set last Wednesday.
The main mover on Monday was sterling, which scaled a six-week peak following recent hawkish-sounding comments from the Bank of England. The pound climbed as far as $1.5435 GBP=D4, from around $1.5407 late on Friday.
In commodities, oil ran out of puff after a sharp rally on Friday. Brent crude LCOc1 dipped 3 cents to $61.49 per barrel, while U.S. crude CLc1 lost 5 cents to $52.73.